Assistant Professor Tan Gek Yen Gladys
Adjunct Assistant Professor (Honorary)
Asst Prof Tan Gek Yen Gladys is an Assistant Professor at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University. Asst Prof Tan completed her BSc in Biochemistry and Microbiology at the National University of Singapore in 1997 and obtained her First Class Honours degree in Microbiology in 1998 under the Defence Training Award for Undergraduate study from Ministry of Defence, Singapore. She then went on to pursue her PhD in Immunology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA under the Defence Training Award for Postgraduate study in 1999. Upon her return to Singapore in 2004, Asst Prof Tan set up the Animal BSL3 facility at DSO National Laboratories and began her research in the field of Melioidosis. She is currently Head of the Host-Pathogen Interactions Laboratory at Defence Medical and Environmental Research Institute @DSO National Laboratories, and Chairman of the DSO Biosafety Committee.
Her research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis, host-pathogen interactions and mechanisms of host resistance. Using the murine model, Asst Prof Tan established both acute and chronic forms of human melioidosis via the inhalational (aerosol and intranasal), intraperitoneal and subcutaneous routes of infection. The data showed that differential susceptibility exists between BALB/c and C57Bl/6 mice, with the latter being at least 10-100x more resistant to B. pseudomallei infection than the former, regardless of the portals of entry or bacterial strains. Furthermore, this host resistance correlated with bacterial clearance in C57Bl/6 mice, and host susceptibility was associated with bacterial colonisation in multiple organs of BALB/c mice. Over the last ten years, her research focused on understanding the mechanism adopted by B. pseudomallei to evade the innate immune system. The data showed that B. pseudomallei is able to synthesise unique lipid A species, which are different from those of the closely-related, but rarely pathogenic B. thailandensis, hence possibly allowing B.pseudomallei to escape innate recognition.
Recent efforts have been centred on investigating the development of mucosal immunity in response to an inhalational challenge of biological agents, harnessing the innate immunity to provide prophylactic protection against such respiratory infections and developing vaccines against B. pseudomallei infections.
Asst Prof Tan is recognised for her contribution to the areas of inhalational challenge in murine models of melioidosis in high containment facilities and vaccine development for melioidosis. As such, she currently sits on the global research coordination network panel for melioidosis. With her active role in running high containment facilities and overseeing biosafety matters, Asst Prof Tan is also a member of the Biorisk Association of Singapore.